40 Years of Footy at the SCG – The Big Games Part 2

As the game celebrates 140 years and the Swans celebrate four decades of Aussie Rules at the SCG, Neil Cordy looks back at some of the games which have made the code a key ingredient in Sydney’s sporting history.


Plugger’s Record.

Tony Lockett kicks goal 1300 to pass Gordon Coventry as game’s greatest goal kicker.

Round 10 v Collingwood 1999

When Tony Lockett went past the 1,000 goal mark in his first season at the Swans (1995) it was just a matter of time before he was threatening Gordon Coventry’s long standing record of 1,299 career goals.

He overtook Doug Wade (1,057) mid-way through 1996 and then there was only Coventry in front of him.

Appropriately the opportunity to claim the record would come against Coventry’s old team Collingwood in round 10, 1999 at the SCG.

Needing four goals to make the record his Plugger had a day out kicking nine.

He would retire at the end of the year on 1,353 before making a three game comeback in 2002 and adding another seven majors to finish on 1,360.

 

Nick Davis comes to save us.

Semi Final v Geelong 2005.

Four last quarter goals sink Cats and keep the dream alive.

After losing a four point heart breaker to West Coast the week before in Perth Sydney looked set for a straight sets exit when they trailed Geelong by 22 points with just over 13 minutes left in the match.

The Swans star studded forward line of Barry Hall, Michael O’Loughlin, Ryan O’Keefe and Nick Davis had managed just three goals in the first three and half quarters. Four in just over 10 minutes seemed impossible to everybody except Davis.

His first came from a snap from a stoppage close to the boundary. The second from a contested mark close to goal and the third from another snap 40 metres out.

Each goal sent the Sydney fans further into delirium. His third had them at fever pitch.

With only seconds left a perfect Jason Ball hit out helped Davis to his fourth, a left foot snap. Anthony Hudson’s call “I see it but I don’t believe it,” instantly etched into Sydney’s memory banks.

Davis’s heroics created an indisputable feeling of destiny. The Swans beat St Kilda in the Preliminary Final the following week and then West Coast by four points to break a 72 year premiership drought.

 

The ‘RESPECT’ match.

Round 18 v Adelaide 2015.

In the midst of the ugliest episode in the AFL’s modern history Sydney Swans fans rallied around their hero Adam Goodes.

After two years of continual booing from opposition fans and abuse and bigotry from sections of the media, Goodes walked away from the game. In his absence Swans fans, players and staff produced an outpouring of support at the round 18 match against Adelaide at the SCG.

Before the game thousands of red and white T shirts bearing Goodes number 37, produced by sympathetic fans, were handed out for free.

The Sydney banner had one word on it, ‘RESPECT.’

Lewis Jetta celebrated his opening goal to the match with his own Indigenous ‘Bird’ dance in honour of Goodes. At the seven minute mark of the third quarter, acknowledging Goodes number 37, the entire stadium rose to applaud Goodes.

The champ returned to the team the following week as Sydney took on Geelong at Kardinia Park but announced his retirement six games later after the elimination final loss to North Melbourne.

 

Buddy Brilliant.

Lance Franklin’s lands fourth Coleman Medal

Round 23 v Carlton 2017.

Lance Franklin started the round 23 match against Carlton five goals behind Coleman Medal leader Josh Kennedy.

But very quickly it became clear he was in for a day out at the SCG.

In one of his very best games in red and white Buddy kicked 10 goals, picked up 25 disposals and took 10 marks. He beat Kennedy, who had won the last two Coleman Medals, by four after the Eagles star kicked just one goal four behinds against Adelaide at Subiaco.

It continued Franklin’s run of winning the Coleman Medal every three years.

 

 

 


Sydney Derby Final

The first All Sydney final at the SCG.

Elimination Final Swans v GWS, 2018.

Derby finals between non-Victorian teams are extremely rare. Adelaide’s 89 point semi-final win over Port Adelaide in 2005 is was the first and only one in the AFL era before the GWS Giants arrived in 2012.

Remarkably the 10 years of the GWS Giants time in Sydney has already seen two.

The first, a qualifying final in 2016 at Stadium Australia, saw the Giants beat the Swans by 36 points.

The first at the SCG came in the 2018 Elimination Final.

40,350 packed into the SCG to watch the Giants inflict even more pain on their cross town rivals with an easy 49 point win. Lance Franklin was held goal less and the Swans managed just four goals on their home deck. Toby Greene led the way for the Giants with three goals.

 

Swansong for Sydney greats as Buddy celebrates 300-

Round 23, v St Kilda 2019. 

There have been a lot of pressure packed moments at the SCG over the last four decades but the round 23 clash against St Kilda in 2019 wasn’t one of them.

This was a party.

With finals out of reach for the first time since 2009 there was nothing to do but celebrate the careers of premiership heroes Jarrad McVeigh, Kieren Jack, Heath Grundy and Nick Smith.

In a perfect confluence of milestone’s and farewells Lance Franklin also played his 300th.game.

Grundy and Smith had finished up earlier in the year but McVeigh and Jack got to go out with their boots on. Both put icing on the celebration cake with goals which lifted the roof off the SCG grandstands. They also got to sing the Swans song one more time when they ran out comfortable 45 point winners.

40 Years of Footy at the SCG – The Big Games Part 1

As the game celebrates 140 years and the Swans celebrate four decades of Australian Football at the SCG.   
Neil Cordy looks back at some of the games which have made the code a key ingredient in Sydney’s sporting history.

South goes North.

The first game for the Sydney Swans

Round 1, 1982 v Melbourne.

Round one 1982 was the Sydney Swans first game at the SCG but footy authorities were eyeing the Harbour city long time before the historic match.

Way back in 1903 when the VFL was only seven years old Fitzroy took on Collingwood and beat them by 17 points. There were two more matches over the following 12 months and another two in the 1950s and 1970s.

As the VFL pushed for a presence in Australia’s biggest city six more games came in 1980-81 including two from South Melbourne. But it wasn’t until March 28, 1982 that Sydney had their own team when the Swans moved from the Lake Oval to the SCG.

They got off to the perfect start perfect start beating Melbourne by 29 points. The historic team included many who would become club greats. Barry Round was captain of a team which featured future skippers Mark Browning and Denis Carroll and club greats like Rod Carter, Tony Morwood, and Steve Wright. All of them went on to chalk up more than 200 games for the red and white.

Four years later in 1986 Sydney made their first finals appearance, a losing qualifying final against Carlton at the MCG.

Horse rides into town.

NSW V Vic 1990

 Shocked VFL Officials at the NSW v VFL Night Gamee

John Longmire was still only 19 but in blistering form when he lined up for his home state NSW against Victoria.

He’d kicked more than 30 goals in the lead up to the SCG match including 12 against Richmond in round two.

He was taking on some of the game’s best defenders including Steve Silvagni, Chris Langford and Danny Frawley but they could do nothing to contain the kid from Corowa who booted eight for the night in an epic 10 point win.

The match also featured the four Daniher brothers, Terry, Neale, Anthony and Chris playing together for the first time.

A 19 year old Wayne Carey who at that stage had played only 12 games was also in the Sky Blue’s line up. Carey wore the number 26 in nod to Swans champ Steve Wright who had taken a teenage Carey aside for some extra work at a clinic in Wagga Wagga years earlier.

 

The Dark Ages.

Ozzie Osborne kicks 10 to stop the rot.

Round 13, 1993.

          Richard Osborne

The three years between 1992 and 1994 seasons were literally the ‘Dark Age’ of the Swans time in Sydney.

Three consecutive wooden spoons confirmed the club’s standing as the worst in the competition. The lowest ebb came with a 26-game losing streak between round 8, 1992 and round 13, 1993.

Former Fitzroy Lion Richard Osborne was the star of the drought breaking win over Melbourne with 10 goals. It was their only win for the year. Osborne’s match winning haul came just weeks after a horrific head clash with team-mate Dale Lewis. The collision occurred directly in front of the SCG Members Stand and caused Osborne to convulse on the ground. It was a horrible sight for all those who witnessed it. The game was stopped for more than 20 minutes as paramedics treated him where he lay before taking him to hospital in an ambulance. Remarkably he returned to action three weeks later. It would be his only season in red and white as he moved to Footscray at the end of the year.

 

Qualifying Final v Hawthorn 1996.

First final at SCG,

In front of full house Cresswell goal in last minute wins match.

Despite finishing second and third respectively in 1986 and 1987 the Swans were forced to play all their finals in Melbourne against their Victorian opponents. Not surprisingly they lost them all.

Ten years later the first final was played at the SCG. The match was worthy of the occasion. With Tony Lockett out with a groin injury Sydney found other goal kickers in Craig O’Brien (5) and Jason Mooney (3). In the closing minute with scores locked Daryn Cresswell marked at the top of the goal square and kicked truly for a six point win. It would set up an even bigger stage for Tony Lockett to perform on two weeks later.

 

Preliminary Final v Essendon 1996,

Plugger’s point

                      That Point!

With Rodney Eade at the helm the Swans were back in the finals for the first time since 1987. Tony Lockett brought up the ton again in round 19 against Richmond at the SCG kicking 12. He missed the qualifying final win over Hawthorn with a groin complaint. Two weeks later he was back in for the Preliminary final against Essendon. It was a thriller. Still struggling with injury Plugger kicked just one goal for the game and barely left the goal square. With the scores tied and the final seconds ticking down he marked on the 50 metre arc. His kick after the siren went through for a point putting Sydney into their first grand final since 1945 and sent the SCG rocking like never before.

The solitary point was a game changer in every sense of the word.

With the NRL in the middle of their Super League War the Swans success was cutting through into the mainstream Sydney like never before.

It was also the start of an unprecedented period of success which would see Sydney play in every finals series except three (2000, 2002 and 2009) over the next 23 years. The run included six grand finals (1996, 2005, 2006, 2012, 2014, 2016) and two premierships (2005 and 2012).

 

The Big 3 at the SCG – Lockett, Goodes & Franklin

For much of the last 40 years former Swans and Bulldogs defender Neil Cordy has been in the media box at the SCG to witness the careers of three of the game’s greatest players on the famous ground that has hosted Australian football for 140 years.
Here, he presents their story.

Tony Lockett, Adam Goodes and Lance Franklin.

There’s been a host other outstanding contributors over the years. Paul Kelly, Michael O’Loughlin, Jude Bolton, Brett Kirk, Barry Hall, Greg Williams, Gerard Healy, Kieren Jack and Jarrad McVeigh are champions all.

But the big three stand apart.

Size and power are their common denominator but they’ve all bought something different to the table.

Plugger was a goal scoring beast who kept the scoreboard ticking over like no player before him or since. He would physically and mentally intimidate opponents, win the ball and kick for goal with unerring accuracy.

Goodsey was poetry in motion, a super athlete who became a super footballer. In the early days he was admired for the beauty of his play, in the end he drew equal applause for his toughness and durability.

Buddy is different again. At 34 he still electrifies the crowd like nobody else in the game.

The patch of turf in front of the SCG’s Members and Ladies Stands is his favourite place. In the summer cricketers raise their bats there, in the winter its Buddy’s playground.

TONY LOCKETT
Tony Lockett’s 1995 arrival in Sydney from St Kilda was a game changer for both parties.

Sydney were rock bottom, financially and on the playing field. Plugger was in a slump as well as he struggled with injury in 1993 and 1994. His success in red and white was instant, kicking 110 goals for the year and leading Sydney to eight wins.

But the best was still to come.

Plugger’s Point

In 1996 Rodney Eade arrived as coach taking the Swans to their first finals series since 1987. Lockett brought up the ton again in round 19 against Richmond at the SCG kicking 12. He missed the qualifying final win over Hawthorn with a groin complaint. Two weeks later he was back in for the Preliminary final against Essendon. It was a thriller. Still struggling with injury Plugger kicked just one goal for the game and barely left the goal square. With the scores tied and the final seconds ticking down he marked on the 50 metre arc. His kick after the siren went through for a point putting Sydney into their first grand final since 1945 and sent the SCG rocking like never before.

It was just one of many magic moments the champion spearhead shared with the SCG faithful.

Another came three years later when he kicked his 1,300th to pass Collingwood’s legendary full forward Gordon Coventry’s to become the game’s greatest goal kicker.

ADAM GOODES
Adam Goodes selection at pick 43 of the 1997 draft remains one of the great bargains in footy history.

Growing up he loved playing soccer and came to Aussie Rules later than most. After a slow start playing all of 1998 in the reserves he sprouted wings the following year winning the AFL’s Rising Star Award. There was no turning back from there.

Four years later (2003) he won the first of his two Brownlow Medals playing mostly in the ruck and in 2005 played a vital role in the Swans drought breaking grand final win over the West Coast Eagles.

During the year he was also awarded life membership for the Swans after playing 150 games.

The milestone along with a flag, All Australian honours and a Brownlow was more than most players dreamt of but Adam was barely getting started.

Playing in the midfield his second Brownlow came the following year and a brilliant display in the grand final against the Eagles almost landed back to back premierships. West Coast scraping home by a point.

Over the following years Goodes durability became legendary as he played 191 games straight to the end of 2007. In round four 2012 he overtook his great mate Michael O’Loughlin to become Sydney’s games record holder on 304. His finest moment would come later that year on the biggest stage with an effort of enormous courage.

Goodes’s Finest Hour – 2012 Grand Final

Adam’s form in grand finals had been strong in 2005 and 2006 but a second quarter knee injury in the 2012 decider threatened to ruin Sydney’s hopes. It was a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee but Goodes refused to go off the ground.

If he was substituted the Swans would be down a rotation with 3 quarters to play and almost certain to lose. Playing with his knee heavily strapped an unable turn left or right he had a hand in two second quarter goals and kicked a critical last quarter major to help his team get home.

When he retired in 2015 he’d played 372 games, 143 of them were at the SCG, the most of any player at the venue.

LANCE FRANKLIN
20 years after Tony Lockett’s arrival at the SCG Lance Franklin made an even bigger splash.

He was expected by most people to be heading to GWS but when Buddy signed a nine year $10 million with the Swans the footy world was rocked. The deal came with enormous expectations and the former Hawk lived up to them and delivered even more.

By year’s end he had his third Coleman Medal, finished second in the Brownlow medal and claimed his fifth All Australian selection.

Buddy Takes Over Against Port – Round13 SCG, 2014.

Buddy’s round 13 outing against Port Adelaide became an instant classic. With Port finishing strongly Buddy booted the Swans last five goals of the match to hold them out. His last two goals were both candidates for goal of the year, one from 70 metres out and the other beating a quartet of opposition defenders.

The Swans lost the grand final to Hawthorn but it wasn’t Franklin’s fault as he kicked four goals from limited opportunities.

Injury has hampered his recent years in red and white but Sydney’s fans have been treated to a lifetime worth of goals and entertainment.

His round 22 effort in 2017 was another memorable outing at the SCG. Trailing Coleman medal leader Josh Kennedy by five goals Franklin kicked 10 against Carlton to beat him by four. It also continued his run of winning the medal every three years.

Sydney fans have also had the pleasure of watching their hero climb the ladder of all time goal kickers from 35th to sixth. He is now closing in on the 1,000 goal mark not achieved since Gary Ablett Snr. in 1996.

By good luck or good management every milestone match from 200 to 300 has been played at the SCG. If he can hold out till next year his 1000th could be there as well.

 

From the NRL Cradle to AFL Premiership Glory

Kieren Jack boy and man

This pair of images from the Daily Telegraph’s award-winning photographer Phil Hillard were taken 22 years apart. They are both at the SCG, the first is when Jack was just 11 years old and leading West Pennant Hills Public School to victory in the Paul Kelly Cup.

The second was his final game in the AFL, the round 23 win over St Kilda. The kicking style is almost identical and in the second image resulted in a goal which ignited the Swans faithful.

Neil Cordy profiles the nomination of Kieren Jack to the AFL NSW Hall of Fame:

 

If Tony Lockett was the first Swans player to draw the admiration of Sydney’s rugby league fans it was Kieren Jack who cemented Plugger’s inroads into NRL heartland. League followers loved Lockett’s aggression, intimidation and goal scoring talent and Jack turned them on to the game’s skill, speed and courage.

Rugby League fans first knew Kieren as Garry Jack’s son, the Balmain, NSW and Kangaroos champion full back.

Initially Kieren and his brothers Rhys and Brandon (also a Swans player) headed down the same path playing Rugby League but when Plugger booted the Swans into the 1996 grand final Kieren’s head was turned.

“It was the 96’ Swans team which first caught my interest when I was about nine”, Jack said.

“I wasn’t playing Aussie Rules but having a successful team in Sydney, that was the first thing that attracted me to the game. It was Sydney’s team and we were going to follow them.”

His early interest turned into something more substantial when he reached grade five at West Pennant Hills Public School.

“The Paul Kelly Cup started that year and we were one of the first teams to play,” Jack said.

“I think there were only 50 or 60 teams. Now there’s a couple of thousand competing. It was a simple competition and very smart. It got kids involved in footy who otherwise wouldn’t be. We had a mixed bag of players, there were only a couple of Aussie Rules players, the rest were mostly Rugby Union, Rugby League and Soccer players.

“We made the grand final on the SCG and won it. The following year I signed up for our local team Westbrook in the junior comp. Our school played in the Paul Kelly Cup again the next year, this time with about 150 teams and we won the grand final again. We went back to back. We were the first dynasty in the Paul Kelly Cup!”

The same year he was picked to represent NSW Primary Schools and the balance between League and Rules started to swing.

“That was when I fell in love with footy,” Jack said. “I continued to play League and AFL until I was 15 and then made my choice, and it was a pretty easy decision to be honest. I loved AFL, the atmosphere, the skills and the fitness. The size issue wasn’t a big factor but it was part of the decision especially when other kids were growing much faster. I didn’t want to keep getting smacked around, footy had more space to run.”

Soon Kieren was off to high school at Oakhill College in Castle Hill and changing football clubs as well.

“Pennant Hills was the breeding ground to go onto senior football,” Jack said. “It had produced so many AFL players over the years; Lenny Hayes, Mark and Jarrad McVeigh, Stephan Carey & Nick Potter. It was a great club environment and full of amazing people.”

Just when things were progressing nicely Kieren’s ambitions hit a snag, he missed out on state selection for the under 15s. It was a body blow.

“All of my hopes and dreams simply were sucked right out of me,” Jack said.  “I asked for some feedback about why I missed out and that was when I was told I was too small to play to play the game. I was told footy was moving in a different direction and that you needed to be a certain athletic size to play it and the small players were getting weeded out.”

It was the first real setback Kieren had faced but he soon discovered resources he didn’t realise he had.

“I used that setback to drive me,” Jack said. “I’d run every day and when I hit that pain barrier I’d say to myself I’m not too small and I can do this. I wasn’t going to let anybody tell me I couldn’t make it.”

Kieren’s teens were a pivotal period of time in his career as he battled between ambition and self-doubt. During this time his coaches played a critical role.

“There were three who stood out,” Jack said.

“Greg Barnes coached me in grade six for the Paul Kelly Cup and up until the age of 15 at Pennant Hills. He gave me enormous support and confidence to back myself. Mick Clift had a big influence at the Redbacks, he took me under his wing and was always talking to me. He was very good with people”.

“Then there was Rod Carter after that at State level. I remember coming off the bench in the under 16s, I did a couple of good things and then he threw me into the middle. He could see things in me others couldn’t and he was huge. He backed me and told me what I needed to do to get better. When I got to my late teens I had real confidence in my ability and he was the main reason why.”

Jack was Rookie listed by the Swans in 2005 and given the number 48, it was an early indication he was still a long way from senior football. He lived with the reserves coach at the time and another NSW AFL product Brett Allison and his wife Neita which proved critical in setting the foundation needed to take the next step.

He played the 2006 season in the reserves and made his debut in round six the following year.

After starting out as a tagger he began to win his own ball and had a breakout season in 2010 winning the Bob Skilton Medal.

Two years later he kicked two vital goals in the grand final including the one which drew them level with Hawthorn in the last quarter.

In 2013 he was promoted to co-captain alongside fellow Pennant Hills player Jarrad McVeigh. Remarkably he played the entire season with virtually no training after being struck down by glandular fever before Christmas. His amazing effort earned him All Australian honours.

His last game was in round 23 last year against St Kilda. Appropriately it was at the SCG where he had played 22 years earlier in the Paul Kelly Cup.

“It’s gone really quickly,” Jack said. “It brings a smile to my face when I walk past a field with the four posts up. “I couldn’t find footy posts growing up, I would run around parks and kick at light posts, soccer goals and rugby league posts that’s all I had”.

“The success and growth of the footy in Sydney and this state is something that makes me really happy”.

 

 

 

 

Enormous contribution from Rod Carter

This week’s nomination for the inaugural AFL NSW Hall of Fame.
Neil Cordy profiles the nomination of ex-team-mate and former neighbour Rod Carter.

Swans champion full back Rod Carter took on some of the greatest full forwards in the game’s history but tangling with Tony Lockett, Jason Dunstall and Malcolm Blight was nothing compared to engaging with the student body at Cleveland Street High School in Sydney’s inner west.

In between his stoushes with footy’s best Carter was living his version of the ‘Blackboard Jungle’ through the 1980s when the school had the reputation as Sydney’s toughest.

“They had all these PE teachers who came in and couldn’t get out quick enough, it finished them,” Carter said.”

“You could imagine their surprise when I said I wanted to work there. When I went to ‘Clevo’ I told the lady at reception I wanted to work there, she stared at me like I was on drugs. She asked me what I taught and when I said Phys Ed she said don’t move. She ran down the corridor shouting Bob, Bob, Bob. Bob was the deputy and he gave me a job on the spot. I ended up teaching geography, history and PE.”

Getting the job was the easy part, keeping it was the challenge for most of Carter’s colleagues. ‘Clevo’ had the highest turnover of staff in New South Wales and many staff were left in tears trying to control the rowdy teenagers. As his opponents know Carter is made of stern stuff and his reputation among the boys received a massive boost when one of his students saw the less friendly side of his personality on the footy field.

“One of the boys was selling ice creams at the SCG,” Carter said.

“He would walk through the aisles with his tray. He looked over the fence one day and saw me punching on with the full forward. He packed himself and went back and told all the kids at school. He put a bit of mustard on the story and voila all the kids were scared of me. It worked a treat.”

Carter’s ability to deal with challenging situations on and off the football field was a hallmark of his time in footy and has made him one of NSW football’s greatest contributors.

Few have helped footy on as many levels.

He played 217 games for the Swans and was one of the pioneering players who made the move from South Melbourne to Sydney such a success. He was very unlucky to have fallen short of the 300 game milestone finishing up stranded on 293 games.

“Finishing my career in the reserves was really disappointing, Carter said.

“I’d played 76 for Fitzroy and then played in the VFA for Port Melbourne. “I was proud of the fact I was able to come back and play for as long as I did with my second run at it. I don’t have any regrets. Tommy Hafey rang me as did John Northey who asked me if I wanted to play at Melbourne and get my 300. Things don’t always work out how you want it but I’ve met some great people in footy. They (Hafey and Northey) were real footy people and knew the game, it was flattering.”

Carter’s next move was into coaching where he led Sydney University to a premiership in his first year in charge in 1992.

“They used to be easy beats,” Carter said. “The first game against Campbelltown was a taste of what was to come. I copped a whack so I gave it back. Then the next game against Wests was the same only this time my teammates came from everywhere and started throwing cut lunches. They’d been on the receiving end for so long and they were enjoying fighting back. I’d never played or been involved with senior footy outside the AFL. I enjoyed the year immensely, to get the bonding you do at that level was fantastic.”

Rod Carter pictured in his ‘school teacher’ attire

Carter was also making moves in his other career, moving from Cleveland Street to James Cook High School at Kogarah and then to the NSWAFL and a job in development.

It was hard work trying to introduce the code to Sydney’s private schools but there was enormous enjoyment coaching the state under 16 and under 18 teams and coming across some of the state’s best talent including Mark and Jarrad McVeigh, Lenny Hayes and Nick Davis.

The talent of the McVeigh’s, Hayes and Davis was something Carter enjoyed being involved with but it was a couple of surprise packets he took special pride in, Kieren Jack and Lewis Roberts-Thomson.

“People didn’t see what Kieren had as a player,” Carter said. “Kieren was one that I was really happy with from the point view of the game in NSW, he was a kid who worked really hard and developed in our programs.

LRT was a gem. I remember watching him at Kelso Oval when he was playing with Sydney’s best kids. He played in the ruck and at the first centre bounce he put his knee on his opponent’s shoulder. That was enough for me and I thought we’ve got something to work on. Even by the time he made his debut for the Swans he wouldn’t have played 50 games of footy in his life. Had you stopped the game at half time in 2005 he would have won the Norm Smith Medal.”

While talent identification and player development were huge Carter’s biggest achievement was the creation of the Paul Kelly Cup where Kieren Jack first came to prominence.

“When I was working for the AFL the development officers were having trouble getting into schools,” Carter said.

“We have to cater to them and move to the market, I came up with the Paul Kelly Cup. It was a struggle to get 20 players for a match so 12 a side was perfect. It’s now the biggest sporting competition in Australia.”

After a decade at the NSWAFL Carter moved became a recruiter for Collingwood and found some outstanding talent including Penrith’s Mick Hartley and Bowral’s Tom Young. But his biggest find for the Magpies was ruckman Jarrod Witts who is now captain of the Gold Coast Suns.

“I went out to St Ives to watch some kids and Jarrod came out in the warm up and he bent down and picked up the ball clean as a whistle,” Carter said.

“He was 6’6” and 15 years old and playing rugby at school in Barker’s first XV. By the end of the warm up I was on the phone to Derek Hine (Collingwood’s recruiting boss). I said forget the other kids this is the bloke we need to get before someone else does. To Derek’s credit, he rang Jarrod’s dad and got on a plane the next day and signed him.”

Carter turns 66 at the end of October and has witnessed first-hand the enormous gains the code has made north of the Murray. He can safely lay claims to as one of footy’s most important people of the last 40 years.

“It’s great seeing the change in the landscape,” Carter said. “I remember a meeting at St Ignatius of all Sydney’s private school sports masters in 1998 and one of them got up and said they rated Volleyball higher than Aussie Rules. I was drummed out of the meeting unceremoniously. To change things so quickly the AFL has to be pretty happy with itself.”